The Coordination of Science and Technology Institutes Students’Associations (COSTISA) expresses its grave concern at the suicide of Sagar Mandal, a 2nd year undergraduate student of IISER, Kolkata on 1st May, 2017. Sagar Mandal, a student from a poor family and rural background, is the latest in the case of suicides by students of the elite science and technology institutes in India, and the first in the IISER system. It is lamentable that what we have witnessed in the IITs has begun to be replicated in the IISERs, which are new science education and research institutes set up with much fanfare by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, government of India.
It is not a coincidence that in nearly every case, the victims are students from disadvantaged backgrounds, mostly from dalit and adivasi families, who face nearly unsurmountable adversities in these elite institutions which have always been bastions of privilege. In case of IISER Kolkata, it is learnt that there is no support system for students such as psychological counsellors and the faculty mentorship system has been discontinued by the current administration. A very repressive administration, led by the Director Prof. R.N. Mukherjee is in place, which provides no opportunity or space to students, especially students from weaker sections, to voice their problems and concerns.
The deceased student was depressed and tense as he was fearful of performing badly in the examinations, which started from 1st May, as that would lead to the loss of his fellowship. Coming from a poor family of day labourers, his family was partially dependent on his fellowship for their liveihood. Moreover, the massive hike in fees at IISER Kolkata nearly every year (it has been raised from Rs 30810 to Rs 43730 in 2017-18) has made it very difficult for students from economically weak families to survive without the fellowship. We feel that the combination of an unsympathetic and non-supportive environment, and the financial burden of an increasingly commercialized education, in these institutes of science and technology education is pushing students such as Sagar Mandal towards a desperate situation leading to untimely death.
We call upon the Ministry of Human Resource Development and all stakeholders in the higher education system in India to urgently take note of this situation and immediately institute measures so that this procession of death of young, bright students coming from disadvantaged backgrounds to these elite institutions come to a permanent stop.
Coordination of Science and Technology Institutes’ Student Associations (COSTISA)
Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle, IIT Madras
Ambedkar-Periyar-Phule Study Circle, IIT Bombay
Students for Change, IIT BHU
Ambedkar Bhagat Singh Study Circle, IIT Kharagpur